SF/Fantasy in Audio | 5 Titles To Try

SFF choices that create sound landscapes.

Bennett, Christopher L. Caprice of Fate. GraphicAudio. (Tangent Knights, Bk. 1). Oct. 2021. 7:15 hrs. ISBN 9781685081966. $19.99. SF

In Bennett’s audio original, Cory Kagami, a wishy-washy heiress free of responsibilities, embraces the accident in her mother’s lab that turns her into an armored superhero. All seems set for her to take her rightful place on the team of privately funded heroes powered by her brilliant mother’s nanotechnology. But all is not as it seems, and Cory soon finds herself embroiled with a group of heroes—or are they villains?—set up in direct opposition to her powerful mother. What is true, and whom can Cory trust? The production struggles to find a balance between the full-cast narration and audio effects, and the result—extended exposition punctuated by overly emphasized sound effects like slurping, coughing, and vocalizations—ends up feeling a bit campy. VERDICT Comic book/manga fans and listeners already used to audio dramas will probably enjoy, but Bennett’s novel is unlikely to appeal to anyone not already a fan of the format. An optional purchase to be considered on the basis of individual collection demographics.—Chelsea Lytal

Doyle, Tom. The League of Set. GraphicAudio. (Agent of Exiles, Bk. 1). Oct. 2021. 6:20 hrs. ISBN 9781685081980. $19.99. FANTASY

Doyle’s first installment in the “Agent of Exiles” series, available only in audio through GraphicAudio, will captivate listeners with tales of action, intrigue, and magic, set amid the pyramids and tombs of ancient Egypt. With more than a passing nod to Indiana Jones and James Bond, this rollicking story follows the adventures of Samuel ben Yohanan, a secret agent for the Judean Court, and his unlikely companion and minder, Mehrnaz of the Flame. After an imprudent decision to help Cyrus the Great conquer Babylon, Samuel is dispatched on a secret mission to gain intelligence and destabilize Pharaoh Amasis II’s Egyptian court. This expedition would be an impossible task for most, but Samuel, a master magician with untapped talents, and Mehrnaz, a healer and head magi in King Cyrus’s court, take on the most powerful villains with aplomb. This full-cast production makes the most of the audio medium, deftly employing music, sound effects, and multiple voices. The result is a cinematic production that is witty and engaging, but also satisfyingly sensitive and complex. VERDICT A fun addition to any collection, and a good crossover choice, particularly where graphic novels are popular.—Sarah Hashimoto

McGuire, Seanan. Where the Drowned Girls Go. Macmillan Audio. (Wayward Children, Bk. 7). Jan. 2022. 4:31 hrs. ISBN 9781250841247. $10.99. FANTASY

McGuire’s latest installment in her “Wayward Children” series (after Across the Green Grass Fields) focuses on Cora Miller, recently returned to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Cora is a girl in this world, but in her watery portal world, she is a mermaid. Since returning to the school after narrowly escaping the menacing world of the Moors, she has been pursued by the Drowned Gods, who infiltrate her dreams and try to take her back. Desperately hoping to eliminate their hold upon her, Cora transfers to the Whitethorn Institute, an anti-magical school that promises to make her forget magical worlds and become a normal girl once again. With clear, age-appropriate character voices, Whitney Johnson depicts the diversity and breadth of the students at the institute, from upbeat Sumi to the miserably frightened Girl with No Name. She communicates the dread that all of the girls feel in the repressive school, where punishments are severe and individuality is stamped out. Listeners will be buoyed by Cora’s growing confidence as she begins to realize her own power and agency, abandoning her fear and taking on the mantle of protector. VERDICT Strong crossover appeal. Recommended for both fans and new listeners, particularly where interest in fantasy is high.—Sarah Hashimoto

Nagamatsu, Sequoia. How High We Go in the Dark. HarperAudio. Jan. 2022. 9:20 hrs. ISBN 9780063072671. $26.99. SF

More than a dozen narratives and narrators braid this ambitious piece of literary speculative fiction together, by turns surreal, mundane, nihilistically bleak, and tentatively hopeful. A prehistoric girl is discovered in the newly melted permafrost. A father mourns the loss of his daughter as he tries to finish her work. An ancient, horrific plague emerges anew. A scientist accidentally creates a black hole in his own brain, opening the way for interstellar space travel and a new chance for humanity among the stars. After being cured, coma patients return with impossible knowledge of current and past events. Suicide pacts and doomsday cults proliferate as people struggle to rebuild their lives. And then things really get weird. VERDICT Although written in clean, no-frills prose, this listen still isn’t for the faint of heart. While it is likely to make a splash in awards circles, libraries without a dedicated, hardcore SFF readership can safely treat this title as an optional purchase.—Chelsea Lytal

Rollins, James. The Starless Crown. Macmillan Audio. (Moon Fall, Bk. 1). Jan. 2022. 22:05 hrs. ISBN 9781250845481. $44.99. FANTASY

Though myth claims Urth once revolved, in living memory humanity has only known the Crown—the meridian between deadly hemispheres of sun-scorched fire and endless ice. Listeners meet Nyx, once a foundling, now a teenager whose dreams presage apocalypse. A large, diversely described cast of entertaining misfits come together to help her survive and save the world. SFF fans may wonder at Urthlings having attained civilizations rich enough to support hereditary monarchies, religious cloisters, and commercial airship passenger transit in such a harsh place. A blistering pace and action-packed plot in this series launch divert attention from such wondering well enough, and Rollins (The Last Odyssey) implies answers in future installments. Sounding slightly too mature as Nyx, Nicola Barber nonetheless finds authentic voices for the motley crews of underdog heroes and scene-chewing villains and ramps up the suspense of many a set piece. Rollins reads the introduction, a fun enhancement unique to audio. VERDICT This rapid-fire fantasy is recommended for libraries with large, well-circulating SFF collections.—Lauren Kage

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